After bringing the charmingly fun racer Tiny Trax to PlayStation VR back in 2017, UK-based developer Futurlab have returned to the platform again with another creatively clever experience: Mini-Mech Mayhem. It’s one that really brings something unique to the platform, with its strategic table-top action unlike anything else I’ve played on my PlayStation VR headset so far. It’s a game that’s a heck of a lot of fun to play though, especially with a group of friends who can appreciate the clever blend of strategic thought and sheer luck.
Mini-Mech Mayhem is a table-top battle game, with the player leading their own little robot into showdowns against up to three other players across a tile-based map. You’ll guide your robot along in turns, with each turn made up of three actions that consist of either moving or attacking. You can only move or attack twice per turn though and only once in each direction, so you’ve got to carefully decide how to approach each situation in order to make the most out of your turn. You earn points by either ending the round on the Victory Square or by vanquishing one of your rival’s robots – the first player to hit three points is deemed the victor. It’s a simple and fun concept but one that requires a fair bit of strategic thought to really excel at, especially since you can’t see what moves your opponents are going to make until the start of each turn.
Movement is simple, with the player able to move their robot either forward, back, left, or right across up to six squares. Attacks on the other hand can also go diagonally, whilst the body part you shoot at can change up an opponent’s action too – if you hit them in the head they’ll get knocked back, if you hit them in the arm you’ll change the direction of their next shot that turn, if you hit them in the leg you’ll change the direction of their next movement that turn, or you can just shoot them in the stomach. The thing is, each action in a turn is performed in a certain order: different body parts have certain costs, whilst movement is determined by the amount of steps you’re taking. For example, a headshot is given a ‘six’ count, so if someone decides to move out of the way by three steps, they’ll have their turn before you which can make you miss. On the other hand, a shot to the body is always given a count of ‘one’ so it’ll typically go first during a turn, but it doesn’t add any side effects to your opponent’s robot. It might sound complicated, but it’s presented in a simple manner in-game and is easy to get to grips with quickly.
What makes everything interesting is the fact that each player’s actions aren’t displayed until the start of a turn, so you can only see how things are going to play out after you’ve all assigned your actions. It can be pretty satisfying to look at all of the actions and see that things may actually work out your way, though Mini-Mech Mayhem’s Interceptors might see things take a complete turn if used efficiently.
The Interceptors are special cards that are given to you at the start of each turn that can really mess with a player’s actions. They can be activated when a player’s robot is actually performing their action, so you could do the likes of adding an extra step if they’re moving, force their gun to jam if they’re trying to shoot at you, or even turning their direction randomly mid-movement which will send all of their following actions all over the place. Each Interceptor requires a specific amount of power to use so you can’t use them carelessly though, with an additional power point added each turn or if a player moves their robot over one of the special Power Tiles that are located on the game board. The Interceptors really spice up the gameplay and add an extra layer of strategy to the game – sometimes you’ll think you’re about to pull off the perfect move to steal a point, only for someone to throw in a last minute Interceptor to send you to your death on one of the many Trap Squares. It’s brutal, but hey, you can do the same to them…
Between not knowing what moves your opponents are going to make and the use of Interceptors, there is a fair bit of chance involved in Mini-Mech Mayhem. You can line up your attacks as best as you can and it’s often possible to try and predict an opponent’s movements (especially when it’s one-on-one), but when you’ve got three other players competing against you it can come down to chaotic luck. This element of the game could be a bit hit and miss for me: when I was playing with friends it was great to laugh and joke around at just how frantic things could be, but when I was playing against people I didn’t know who weren’t chatting and joking around it could be a little frustrating. There’s definitely elements of strategy to be found in the game and it’s possible to be really clever (especially when you take advantage of luring enemies to the Victory Square and knowing a headshot will knock them off it) but at times it can just come down to pure luck.
Still, it doesn’t stop Mini-Mech Mayhem from being a heck of a lot of fun to play. I’ve had a really good time playing with friends with the chaos-fuelled nature of the gameplay never growing old, whilst the social interactions with other players or having your robot dance to gloat about a perfect move never stopped being satisfying. I’ve played lots of multiplayer games on PlayStation VR so far, but this is one that’s got a great balance of genuinely enjoyable gameplay and fun social interactions – it just makes for a good time.
There is a single player mode for those who want to play solo, with the player able to face off against bots or complete some of the puzzle-like objectives found in the tutorial mode. It’s nice that there’s an option to play alone, but the majority of fun will be had competing against real players.
As you play matches and level up you’ll unlock new customisation options for both your robot and in-game avatar too, so there’s an option in place to personalise your appearance. With the abundance of parts available and the different colours on offer you can really make some cool looks for your robot, so it’s a fun extra incentive to keep you playing. Plus, the game just so happens to be very pretty too, so seeing your little creation then do battle in the charming world never stopped being satisfying.
Platform(s): PlayStation VR